Increase In Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, an additional 23,000 work-related hearing problems were reported in the UK. The increase in reports means the occupational hazard of noise is becoming a priority, particularly in sectors including construction and food manufacturing.
However the music industry has previously been overlooked as a hazardous industry despite the high risks of noise-induced hearing loss due to musicians.
Protecting the health, safety and welfare of its workforce is the responsibility of the employer, who has an obligation by law to assess the level of risk in the workplace, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force for all industry sectors in Great Britain on 6th April 2006, but the regulation came into force in the music and entertainment sectors on 6th April 2008.
Therefore, employers working in musical theatre are legally obligated to ensure musicians working in their premises are protected from the risks from excessive noise.
A 2015 survey run by Help Musicians UK showed that 78% of people who suffered from hearing problems in their career believed that being a musician was the cause.
Additionally, 68% of musicians had not received a hearing test in the past three years. When asked about their experiences with hearing protection, 81% of the musicians believed they should use it but only 67% had ever actually worn suitable hearing protection.
Landmark Legal Case
In March, the High Court ruled that the Royal Opera House had contributed to viola player Christopher Goldscheider’s hearing loss when it failed to act on complaints about noise levels following a change in the way the orchestra was arranged in rehearsal in 2012.
Although earplugs had been provided, the court found they offered insufficient hearing protection. It was left up to musicians whether they wanted to wear them or not.
It was found that Goldscheider suffered “acoustic shock” in his right ear, despite wearing 25dB earplugs. He claimed he suffered from periodic imbalance and was unable to work as a musician as a result of this.
HSE Sound Advice
- There is evidence that exposure to live music can cause hearing damage
- Noise Regulations require each employer to manage the risk to their employees and, where possible, freelancers
- Control, reduce and monitor exposure to noise
- Many of the controls are simple and cost-effective
- The audience can still enjoy the performance with the controls in place
The Sound Advice web site and Sound Advice HSG 260 publication, were launched on 11 July 2008. They provide practical advice on controlling noise at work in the music and entertainment sectors, and identify good practice to help avoid the harmful effects of prolonged exposure to noise. The guidance has been developed and supported by representatives from a wide range of music and entertainment sectors in Britain, including Environmental Health Officers and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The aim of Sound Advice is to control or reduce exposure to noise at work without stopping people from enjoying music, whether you are an employer, freelancer or employee.